Henry Watch – New York Red Bulls v Houston Dynamo

Following a disappointing loss at Montreal and a meaningless friendly defeat against some mob from the less desirable part of North London, the Red Bulls form continued to dip with a comprehensive 2-0 defeat at the hands of Houston Dynamo. The match was the first part of a double header and saw Houston over take New York at the top of the East. The second part is tonight and New York must improve or see themselves slip off the pace.

The last game was notable on the grounds that Thierry Henry offered very little of note in the entire 90 minutes. The usually dominant Frenchman only registered one shot on target; as a unit, RBNY only managed five shots in total.

The team was re-jigged once again. Barklage and Marquez remain in recovery whilst the influential Dax McCarty sat this out on suspension however, Pearce and Tainio returned and Cahill was available for his first MLS start. Add these options to the recent addition of Sebastien Le Toux and Hans Backe has a selection puzzle I’m not sure he’s quite figured out.

Whilst the likes of Lade and McCarty have threatened the position of more established players this season the selection troubles are more keenly felt up top. Henry clearly picks himself whilst Kenny Cooper’s goals would have made him an automatic pick almost anywhere else. Backe however seems keen to find a place for the clearly talented Le Toux and his new Designated Player, Tim Cahill. The challenge for the head coach is now to find a way to fit all his options together or to be brave enough to upset someone who expects to start.

With Dax McCarty back for the visit of Houston we should see him combine with Cahill in the middle of the park. As fans of the Premier League will know Cahill is at his best operating behind a striker. McCarty provides the discipline to allow the Aussie to get forward however, how that will combine with Henry and Cooper, or Le Toux for that matter, remains to be seen. Cahill may be expected to carry out a more traditional central midfield role, albeit with licence to get into the box.

As the cliché goes, a comparative wealth of playing talent is a nice problem to have. It’s clear that the quality of forward players available to New York is pretty much unrivalled in the MLS; whether Backe has a clear plan on how to utilise his options is rather less obvious. For all the goals that Cooper, Le Toux and Cahill promise, there is still a feeling that Henry is the only player with the ability or desire to turn creator.

Last weeks defeat to Houston, coupled with a win for Sporting Kansas City, sees New York down to third in the East. Should they beat Houston this time they’ll return to the top, awaiting the result of SKC’s tie with DC United on Saturday. A third successive league defeat would see the Red Bulls hope of finishing on top of the Eastern Conference under serious threat. With only 11 games of the regular season left, it’s time for New York to rediscover their direction.